Sometimes, one decision can change your life. For Alexandra Baur, head of PR at German premium gun manufacturer Blaser, it all started when she got a labrador
Getting into fieldsports is different for everyone. The lucky are raised in the sport, while others find their passion later in life. For Alexandra Baur, it all started when she got a labrador.
Our new Sporting Dianas column celebrates women who excel in the field. Read the very first installment with Field top shot and cover star Serena Williams.
How do you get into fieldsports? If you are lucky, you will have an upbringing that introduces you to hunting and fishing at an early age, making fieldsports an integral part of your life, a valued companion as you follow the seasons. Some find the path into fieldsports only at a later stage in their life, pursuing it then, however, at least as passionately as the veterans. And some even manage to make a living out of their passion. But one after the other.
For me, it all started when I got my first dog, a yellow labrador: Bluebelle vom Kleinen Hülser Berg. I was fascinated by this breed, by the amazing teamwork between dog and handler made possible by careful training. It was not long before I attended dummy training regularly and even went as far as Cornwall to learn as much as possible about how to handle a dog.
Blue and I progressed together. Exams arrived and were duly passed – which was largely down to Blue, as she proved to be rather unimpressed by them, unlike her usually very nervous owner.
After throwing dummies for a while, I started wondering what the real thing would be like. It must be an exhilarating experience seeing the birds suddenly arriving in the sky and having your own dog retrieving them after a good shot. I was lucky to come across a brilliant shooting coach, who taught me how to shoot properly, mounting my shotgun effortlessly in a swift movement without even thinking about it while watching the clay to be dusted. If you cannot be out in the field, this is surely a rewarding experience – and much fun, too.
However, nobody is born a great shot with either a rifle or shotgun. Instead, all excellent shooters have one thing in common: a good teacher. From my personal experience I would always recommend that a beginner seeks the guidance of a professional instructor. Knowing the technique and getting sufficient practice to apply it will make you a better shot, increase your self-confidence and, ultimately, result in a more enjoyable day out in the field.
With the hunting permit in my pocket, my life was to take a rather different turn as I was offered the great opportunity to become the head of public relations at Blaser, the German premium manufacturer of firearms. Suddenly, hunting and hunting firearms were no longer a private passion only, they became part of my professional life, too.
Consequently, I have had the chance to try many different firearms and calibres over the past few years. I am using an F3 Baronesse over-and-under for small game and bird shooting and a Blaser R8 Professional Success in .270 Win for big game.
While one can get into endless discussions about the best calibres, it would be difficult not to acknowledge the advantages of the R8 Professional Success. Whether it is from a high seat, on a driven hunt or stalking, the R8 Professional Success, with its ergonomically perfected thumbhole stock, makes you a better shot at any time. Providing you keep your arm and wrist relaxed, the risk of flinching is greatly reduced. The real test, of course, is always in the field.
Personally, and besides bird shooting, I love to go stalking. I am lucky enough to hunt once a year with good friends in Landes, in the south-west of France, in a region that is not only blessed with producing great wines but also boasts the largest forest in Europe. Stalking there, listening to the sounds of nature, inhaling the perfume of the warm ground and the fields of seemingly endless rows of corn and carrots, watching the sun going down in spectacular shades of red, always trying to be ready for a shot, should a wild boar or roe buck across your path – this is a hunter’s paradise. Which, by the way, is being discovered by an increasing number of women, too.
In Germany, up to 20% of the participants on courses to gain a hunting permit are women. Often they arrive there, like me, after getting a dog. It does fieldsports good if more women become involved because if they are enthusiastic about the many aspects of fieldsports – such as preparing venison, dogs and wildlife projects, to name a few – it is more likely that the whole family will experience fieldsports in everyday life, and maybe even as way of life.
Top tip: it is not about the size of the bag, it is about spending a great time in the field with friends and family. Sharing a good meal and hunting stories after the hunt at the fire. Experiencing the satisfaction when your dog retrieves the bird you shot. At that moment, life is perfect.